As many of you know, I spent the last 36 hours hopping among planes en route to Europe. On the way here, I watched The Big Sick. The best way I can describe this movie is that it is absolutely scintillating, and even this word does not seem to fit with consideration of the fact that it’s based on a true story. I think a lot of us have heard of the movie but don’t know what it’s about—at least, that was the case for me. So, here’s a quick summary (with minor spoilers). Pakistani comedian, Kumail Nanjiani, pursues his stand-up career at a night club in Chicago. While his parents sacrifice much from their own lives to provide for Kumail’s arranged marriage—as is custom in Muslim culture—Kumail falls in love with a UChicago graduate student, Emily Gardner. As their relationship increases in emotion and time commitment, so too does the pressure from Kumail’s parents for him to pursue a “real career” (my words) and marry a suitable Muslim woman. When Emily discovers the seemingly insurmountable problem posed by Kumail’s cultural heritage, the two break. Before long, Emily is placed in intensive care and diagnosed with a mysterious disease, hence the name, The Big “Sick”. The remainder of the film tracks the development of Kumail’s relationship with Emily’s parents (who come to Chicago immediately upon learning of their daughter’s illness) and his balancing (or imbalancing, rather) of his attachment to the Gardners with the possibility of his professional career in comedy.
I loved this movie. The dialogue between Kumail and Emily, between Kumail and Terry Gardner (Ray Romano), and between Kumail and his own family shift the mood from scene to scene; while your eyes are drawn to each conversation, you’re clueless as to whether you will be in laughter or tears at the scene’s conclusion. A friend of mine pointed out that the movie is not as funny as he had hoped; while I do agree, the relative lack of comedy did not damage the movie, for me. I mean, there’s no way around it—the subject matter is harsh. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter (who plays Emily’s mother) present a devastatingly real picture of a mother and father in a hospital lobby awaiting to hear the fate of their college-aged child. Kumail assumes the role of the awkward, disgraced boyfriend with no reason to accompany the Gardners except for his love for their daughter, of which the Gardners are initially unaware. And the fact that this movie is based on a true story renders it all the more real, posing legitimate questions about culture, love and the value of life. I don’t have a ton more to say about the movie other than, watch it! The movie has been nominated for several Critics’ Choice and Screen Actors Guild awards, including “Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.” It would certainly get my vote for this one: each member of the cast delivers in a way that has kept the movie on my mind for the last 24 hours.
-Admin Tam (@tomhall2323)